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Brush fires flare up in state

From the Associated Press

MORGAN HILL, Calif. -- Gusty winds kept firefighters on their toes Wednesday as crews struggled to contain brush fires tearing through parched terrain across the state.

The fires flared up over the weekend, when temperatures surged past 110 degrees in some parts of California, creating tinder-like conditions in areas starved of water by an unusually dry winter and spring.

Investigators announced that an 11,000-acre blaze burning in Northern California’s Henry W. Coe State Park about 20 miles southeast of San Jose started when a fire set in a barrel accidentally escaped into the brush.

“This was not arson. This was ‘oops,’ ” said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Pam Rhoten.

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Hot, dry winds continued to push the flames through the park’s rugged, steep terrain, thwarting the efforts of more than 1,300 firefighters to halt the blaze. The fire was 20% contained Wednesday afternoon.

Some private cabins in the park were threatened, but an outbuilding was the only structure destroyed so far, officials said. Rangers evacuated hikers and campers from the park shortly after the fire began Monday, but homes outside the park were not immediately threatened.

In the Angeles National Forest, a 4-day-old fire about 10 miles east of Santa Clarita grew to 2,100 acres, but U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Stanton Florea said hundreds of firefighters made progress in their efforts to cut a line around the blaze, which was 46% contained.

Firefighters lifted the voluntary evacuation of 25 rural homes south of Acton on Tuesday.

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No injuries were reported, and no structures had burned.

Milder weather also helped firefighters quell a 300-acre blaze that erupted near Elizabeth Lake in the Lancaster area, Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Jason Hurd said.

“It’s pretty much a done deal, we’re basically in the mop-up stages,” Hurd said. “The weather was pretty decent today.”

Meanwhile, firefighters tackling an 85-acre wildfire in the San Bernardino National Forest at the east end of Big Bear Lake declared the blaze fully contained Tuesday.

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Firefighters also announced the containment Tuesday of a 170-acre blaze that temporarily closed a nearly 20-mile stretch of Highway 101 along Santa Barbara County’s Gaviota coast.


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